March for Life

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Three days after the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, massive crowds converge on Washington DC, on the anniversary of Roe v Wade, in the name of the most fundamental civil and human right of all, i.e, life itself.

Hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates marched for life today in the nation’s capital and they displayed a renewed vigor to stop abortions. it appeared in the excitement in the crowd that the election of Barack Obama had one silver lining, the ability to motivate millions of pro-life advocates to get to work.

Congressman Chris Smith, who has been a pro-life leader on Capitol Hill for years, addressed the pre-march rally.

“Each of you are an integral part of the greatest human rights struggle on the face of the earth — the right to life movement,” he said. “A selfless expression of tangible love, compassion and commitment to protecting women and children from the pain and violence of abortion and safeguarding all who are weak, frail, and unwanted.”

It was widely expected that President Barack Obama would use this anniversary of Roe v Wade to authorize the spending of U.S. federal tax money to aid foreign non-governmental organizations which promote or perform abortions overseas. The spending of U.S. tax dollars in this way was banned by Ronald Reagan in 1984, a ban upheld by both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush but reversed by Bill Clinton. However, it appears — although the news reports on this issue are somewhat contradictory — that President Obama did not issue the executive order today necessary to authorize this practice. If so, that is good news, but not if, as widely assumed, he is merely waiting till tomorrow or some other day very soon to do it when it will attract less attention.

Obama ran on “change.” He ran as a candidate to bridge divisions, and to put old politics behind us. He has often said that there is not a red and a blue America, but one America. The truth is that the most fundamental dividing line of American politics is not geography, but rather it is this issue of life, and the protection of those weakest and least able to speak for themselves both at the beginning and at the end of their life-span. It has been so for a long time and it will continue to be so, especially while the anti-democratic judicial fiat of Roe v Wade remains on the books. Other issues come and go, and the state of the economy has a huge influence on the outcome of elections, but underlying it always is this issue, this division in the electorate, this matter of consciences which will not be silent.

If President Obama genuinely wanted to bridge differences and attempt to redefine the American political scene, here would be a good starting point: He could counter expectations, defy the demands of the pro-abortion lobby, and decide to keep in place the ban on using U.S. federal tax dollars to support organizations which promote or practice abortion abroad.

I’m not naive. While this really is not much to ask of President Obama (after all, who the hell really needs or deserves these funds?), I know too well that it is very likely far more than he is willing to give on this issue. He has signaled his willingness and indeed eagerness to march in lockstep with the pro-abortion side of this debate, and he is likely looking forward to doing things that will guarantee the loyalty of that part of his constituency. Remember, indeed, how crucial it was for Bill Clinton to have those allies when scandal almost destroyed him. Nevertheless, I put it out there just to hear myself say it. It is an opportunity, and it is likely to be a turning point one way or another.

If you haven’t read it before, I recommend this speech by the recently-deceased Richard John Neuhaus to the annual convention of the National Right to Life Committee in 2008: We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest (a point tangibly confirmed by the March for Life in Washington today).

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.